BOSTON (SHNS) – Lawmakers and Gov. Maura Healey might take action in the next five weeks to steer more money to schools burdened by a sharp escalation in special education costs, according to a top Senate Democrat.
Education Committee Co-chair Sen. Jason Lewis said Wednesday that Beacon Hill power players are weighing further spending action beyond the annual state budget process to deploy funding toward special education, an area where some communities are bracing for increases of hundreds of thousands of dollars or even a few million dollars to serve the same number of students. With pandemic-era federal funding about to expire, districts are facing effectively a 14 percent increase in the tuition they pay to private special education providers.
The Senate’s fiscal year 2024 budget bill includes $20 million to offset some of those costs, Lewis said in a speech on the chamber floor, where he forecast that the annual spending bill might not be the only avenue of action before the calendar flips to fiscal year 2024 on July 1.
Conversations are underway between the House and Senate and the administration relative to a future supp budget, which we would hope to do before the end of the fiscal year,” Lewis said. “We are talking about additional funding support in that supp budget to help our school districts cover that 14 percent cost increase they are all facing for tuition rates for students that are placed out of district.”
In a $734 million spending bill Healey filed in March, she proposed putting another $75 million on the table — in addition to $20 million in her annual budget — to help districts that need more funding to cover their share of private special education tuition than they would receive through the annual budget process. Lawmakers have not advanced that $75 million measure, even though they wove some other parts of the broader bill into legislation that Healey signed.